The study on which this book is based was conducted under the auspices of the Research Project on Tibetan Culture in China, initiated by the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO), and funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Research Project on Tibetan Culture in China was developed in 1996 after preliminary contacts had been made in China through the Ethnic Affairs Research Center of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission. During the autumn of 1997, further dialogue was initiated between PRIO and the Institute of Nationalities Studies (INS) of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). Project director David Phillips first met with INS representatives during a preparatory trip to Beijing and Lhasa in November 1997.
In March 1998, INS delegates visited Oslo and signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the implementation of scholarly research between PRIO and the INS. The delegates were invited to attend the seminar “Trends in Tibetan Culture” (23–24 March 1998) and discuss their cooperation on the project. A representative of the Ethnic Affairs Research Center also participated in the seminar. The delegates from CASS were Sun Yu (foreign affairs secretary in charge of Europe at the CASS main office), Professor Hao Shiyuan (director of the INS), Chen Jingyuan (director of the Department of Visual Anthropology, INS), and Guo Yang (editor in the Publications Department, INS).
Before the agreement was signed, an International Advisory Board was established in order to help ensure the scholarly quality of the project. The advisory board was chaired by Thommy Svensson, initially in his capacity as director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies, Copenhagen. The other members of the advisory board were Dru Gladney (professor of Asian studies, University of Hawaii at Manoa, and dean of academics, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, Honolulu), Samten Karmay (director of research, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique [CNRS], Paris), Robert Thurman (professor, Columbia University, New York), and Jens Braarvig (director, Network for University Cooperation Tibet-Norway, Oslo). The advisory board held its first meetings during 21–27 March 1998. We would like to express our gratitude to all the members of the board for reading our reports and manuscripts and for their advice and close attention to our work throughout the research process.
During the summer of 1998, Åshild Kolås made an initial research trip to Dechen (Diqing) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (TAP) in Yunnan for the purpose of assessing research methods and access to necessary data. The evaluation was positive, and valuable data were collected during the trip. Based on this experience, Åshild Kolås and Monika P. Thowsen undertook similar research trips to Tibetan areas in Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai. They conducted five months of fieldwork in the areas under study, which are all officially designated as at least partially Tibetan autonomous areas. Kanlho (Gannan) TAP, in Gansu, and Ngaba (Aba) Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, in Sichuan, were visited in March–April 1999; all the Tibetan areas in Qinghai were visited in July–August 1999; and Kandze (Ganzi) TAP, in Sichuan, was visited in April–May 2000. The results were written up during June–November 2000, and the International Advisory Board reviewed the first drafts during 25–26 November 2000 at a workshop in Paris. Very little new data was added after that date.
At PRIO, Dan Smith and David Phillips oversaw the work at various stages, and Henrik Syse provided guidance in his capacity as leader of the PRIO Program on Ethics, Norms, and Identities, which eventually headed this project. Heidi Fjeld was a project research assistant during the year 2000. Karl Ryavec (Department of Geography, University of Minnesota-Minneapolis) provided us with digital maps of the areas under study, showing the borders of administrative units down to the village district level and, for some areas, the location of towns down to the township level. Heidi Fjeld then completed the data on the location of towns and registered place-names in Tibetan and Chinese. These place-names were drawn from indexes produced in China and, in some cases, from large-scale prefecture maps collected on-site.
This book has benefited from the questions and commentaries of Heidi Fjeld and several other PRIOites, particularly fellow researchers in the Ethics, Norms, and Identities program. Odvar Leine provided important library assistance. Credit is also due to Tashi Nyima, a Tibetan born and raised in Tibet, who worked as a project consultant from July 1998 to December 2000; his ideas and suggestions have been invaluable. A number of Tibetologists and Sinologists supplied important input to the project, either as active participants in meetings and seminars or through personal communications. Members of the Board of the International Association for Tibetan Studies were invited to Norway to discuss the project in January 1998. Those who participated were Per Kværne (University of Oslo), Samten Karmay and Anne-Marie Blondeau (CNRS, Paris), the late Michael Aris (University of Oxford), Ernst Steinkellner (University of Vienna), Martin Brauen (University of Zurich), Helga Uebach (Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Munich [now at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Munich]), Janet Gyatso (Amherst College, Massachusetts [now at Harvard University, Cambridge]), and Elliot Sperling (Indiana University, Bloomington). Others who contributed their comments and criticisms include Janet Upton, Tsering Shakya, Axel K. Strøm, Anders Højmark Andersen, Ellen Bangsbo, Rinzin Thargyal, Hanna Havnevik, Koen Wellens, Mette Halskov Hansen, Harald Bøckman, Katrin Goldstein-Kyaga, Stevan Harrell, Lorri Hagman, and Dawa Norbu as well as several anonymous readers.
The opinions and interpretations presented in this study are those of the authors alone. In particular, it should be noted that the INS researchers who accompanied us were there as facilitators and not as co-researchers. Due to their limited involvement, they are in no way responsible for the outcome of the research, nor do we know whether they share any of the views published in this book. Nevertheless, we would like to express our gratitude to the INS researchers and staff who helped make this study possible. We would also like to thank all the others who assisted us in so many ways during our trips to the field. We did not identify our interviewees by name, and in the case of politically sensitive statements, we actively disguised the identity of our sources. We do, however, wish to emphasize that without the contributions of all the people we encountered during our travels, this book could never have been written.